The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a wireless intrusion detection technology patent to security vendor AirTight Networks. But competitor AirDefense is calling interference, saying its similar patent applications were there first.
On Feb. 21, AirTight announced that it had received a U.S. patent for "a method and system for monitoring a selected region of an airspace associated with local area networks of computing devices," which covers methods of intrusion prevention and detection in wireless LANs, specifically in the companys SpectraGuard Enterprise software.
The patent covers active monitoring and detection of threats in a wireless networks airspace, active prevention of those threats, and location tracking of those threats, AirTight officials said.
"If theres another system that does all three, then they would be in violation of our patents," said Dennis Tsu, vice president of marketing at AirTight in Mountain View, Calif.
AirDefense, which offers software that does these three things, claims that it filed similar patent applications in June 2002—predating the AirTight application, which was filed in October 2004.
"AirDefense has been developing intellectual property in the wireless IDS [intrusion detection system] space since late 2001," said Anil Khatod, president and CEO of AirDefense in Alpharetta, Ga.
AirDefense has received an "issue of allowance" from the Patent Office regarding two of its patent applications, meaning that the Patent Office likely intends to issue a patent, but has yet to receive the actual patent, Khatod said.
To that end, AirDefense invoked an interference action against the AirTight patent two weeks ago, anticipating that AirTight would be issued its patent first. AirDefense seeks to show that the two patents that the Patent Office intends to issue to AirDefense should supersede the patent that AirTight already received.
"Theres an examiner sitting there with a pile of applications, and the process of allocation is pretty random," said Amit Sinha, chief technology officer of AirDefense. "Interference is a defined proceeding. At the end of the process it will define one patent and one patent only. We are confident that [AirTights patent] will be quashed."
About 1 percent of applications filed to the USPTO become involved in an interference proceeding, Sinha said.
Meanwhile, AirTight claims that its patent is solid.
"They [AirDefense] do have a couple of patents that have recently been allowed, but those are for very specific prevention techniques that we dont implement," Tsu said.
With regard to whether AirTight intends to sue AirDefense for patent infringement, Tsu said only that his company has different motives from those of NTP, the patent-holding company that aims to shut down BlackBerry e-mail service in the United States if BlackBerry maker Research In Motion does not license its technology.
"There are multiple reasons why any company goes about getting patents," Tsu said. "Were not filing patents as a business. Were filing patents to protect our intellectual property to help us run a business."